It's still the Apes' planet; we just live on it.
In its second weekend, 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' remained on top at the box office, relegating four new movies to second-banana status. But the film did receive a stronger-than-expected challenge from 'The Help,' while the other three new releases opened well below expectations.
The second-weekend take for 'Apes' was an estimated $27.5 million, about 50 percent of what it earned when it opened. That drop was about what was predicted, given the onslaught of new movies this weekend. Still, it means 'Apes' is holding up very well, having crossed the $100 million mark after 10 days of release.
More surprising was the close-second finish of 'The Help,' with an estimated $25.5 million earned over the weekend. Despite rave reviews and a built-in audience of fans of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel, early predictions guessed that the movie would open around $18 million, with a likely third-place finish behind 'Apes' and 'Final Destination 5.' After all, it was expected to appeal to an older, female audience, the sort of moviegoers who wait for word-of-mouth before seeing a movie rather than rushing out opening weekend. But 'The Help' generated that positive word-of-mouth by opening on Wednesday. (Adding mid-week receipts, the movie's five-day total is an estimated $35.4 million.) As such past August releases as 'Eat Pray Love' and 'Julie & Julia' have proved, movies about strong women based on literary sources are smart counterprogramming in a late-summer season starved for substance.
Coming in fourth was 'The Smurfs,' down just 35 percent in its third week to $13.5 million. That was to be expected, given how little family fare is currently playing in theaters. Like 'Apes,' 'Smurfs' also crossed the $100 million line this weekend.
Opening at No. 5 was '30 Minutes or Less,' which had the misfortune of straggling in near the tail end of this summer's long line of R-rated comedies. Last week's poor premiere showing for 'The Change-Up' seemed a sign that the market for these movies had finally been saturated. Nonetheless, pundits had predicted a debut of just under $18 million. Instead, it opened with an estimated $13.0 million. Expect it to drop as quickly as 'The Change-Up,' which fell six slots this weekend to tenth place.
The weekend's fourth new wide release, 'Glee: The 3D Concert Movie,' didn't even debut in the top 10. Pundits were predicting just a modest $9 million opening, but the film mustered only an estimated $5.7 million to open at No. 11. The movie had strong word-of-mouth among moviegoing Gleeks, who were primarily teenage girls and women under 25, but most of that demographic was probably spending its weekend movie dollars on 'The Help' or 'Final Destination 5.'
By this time last year, the domestic box office had already passed $7 billion. This year's take is 3.9 percent behind, at $6.8 billion, though that gap closes a little more every week. Receipts for August are up 16.4 percent (or $71.4 million) over the same part of the month last year, which saw such late-summer hits as 'Eat Pray Love,' 'The Expendables,' and 'The Other Guys.'
The full top 10:
1. 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' $27.5 million (3,691 screens), $104.9 million total
2. 'The Help,' $25.5 million (2,534), $35.4 million
3. 'Final Destination 5,' $18.4 million, (3,155), new release
4. 'The Smurfs,' $13.5 million (3,427), $101.5 million
5. '30 Minutes or Less,' $13.0 million, (2,888), new release
6. 'Cowboys & Aliens,' $7.6 million (3,310), $81.5 million
7. 'Captain America: The First Avenger,' $7.1 million (2,835), $156.9 million
8. 'Crazy, Stupid, Love,' $6.93 million (2,635), $55.4 million
9. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,' $6.88 million (2,414), $357.0 million
10. 'The Change-Up,' $6.2 million (2,913), $25.8 million
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.